NYC Elected Officials Statement Regarding Metropolitan Detention Center Brooklyn
New York, NY – Today, U.S. Reps. Nydia M. Velázquez; Yvette D. Clarke; Carolyn Maloney; Grace Meng; José E. Serrano; New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie; and Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca and Brad Lander released the following joint statement regarding a class action suit being litigated in United States District Court Eastern District of New York against Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn:
“MDC Brooklyn has a long, troubled history, but it is increasingly clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded problems at this institution. Most recently, we were alarmed by the findings of Dr. Venters, who visited the site in late April. His analysis suggested that, far from being prepared for COVID-19, management’s practices at the facility are endangering staff and inmates alike, and heightening risk of transmission in our federal prison system.
“We also find disconcerting the BOP's assertion that while confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff at MDC Brooklyn continue to rise, there are no new infections among inmates. This inconsistency raises credibility issues about what is being done to identify infected inmates and to protect staff and inmates from further spread of the virus at this facility.
“We’ve also heard directly from union officials representing MDC workers about conditions at the facility. They’ve expressed clearly to the court and media that: staff are performing their duties without adequate Personal Protective Equipment; inmates are being distributed inadequate, flimsy facial masks that quickly deteriorate; sick staff continue reporting to work specifically because of BOP administrative policies; and inmates at MDC are not being tested in a manner sufficient to slow – let alone stop - the spread of coronavirus.
“Not only is this information important to the court, but it also identifies steps BOP and MDC management could take, immediately, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread in this facility. We commend BOP employees who are stepping forward to share this information with the court, the public and, us, their elected officials.
“It should go without saying that employees willing to speak out should not face retaliation. The Bureau must circumspectly avoid even the appearance that it could be intimidating staff who are voicing concerns with the goal of improving conditions for themselves, their colleagues and those detained. We are monitoring carefully to ensure that no such actions are taken by BOP against those employees who have spoken out.
“Given the problems plaguing this institution and the unique dangers COVID-19 presents in a prison setting, we hope the court carefully reviews this suit and quickly identifies solutions for reducing spread of the virus. Many of us have previously corresponded with BOP on these issues. We will also be following up with the agency directly. We have a moral obligation to ensure those in federal custody are cared for properly and to protect the health and safety of the women and men who work at these facilities.”
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